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170. The Government of New England Towns.-The local governments of the United States comprehend the town, the city, and the county governments. The most noteworthy of these is the town government of New England, which has come down to us from colonial times. Its most distinctive characteristic is its democracy. It is a government by the people. The territory of the town is a few square miles in extent, with clearly determined but irregular boundaries. The inhabitants live in part on the farms into which the territory is divided and in part in the village or villages that have grown up around the church or some place favorable for manufacturing. The voters come together at least once a year to make laws for the town, to elect the officers, to vote the necessary taxation, and to make the appropriations needed for schools, roads, and other local purposes. The meeting is presided over by the chairman or moderator, and each voter enjoys the same right as every other voter to introduce measures and to take part in the debate. The town meeting is held in the church, or in the townhall, if there is one, or in a schoolhouse. The principal executive officers elected at the town meeting are called the selectmen. There are usually three, five, or seven in a town; and there may be even a larger number. The number in any given case depends on the population and the

importance of the town. They manage the public business under directions contained in the laws or resolutions of the town meeting. There is also a town clerk. He acts as secretary of the town meeting and keeps the town records. Other officers are a treasurer, assessors who make a valuation of the property for the purpose of taxation, a collector, who collects taxes, and several minor officers such as cemetery trustees, library trustees, and members of school committees.

The appointment of minor officers and employees, and the details of administration must be left to a single person or to a small body of persons. Thus the selectmen, in the intervals between the town meetings, are required to perform nearly all of the functions of the town meeting itself. The most important limitations on their activity are that they may not appoint the higher officers, nor make laws except under special authorization of the body that elected them. They summon the town meeting; they manage the financial affairs of the town; they establish rules relating to the admission to the town of new inhabitants; they have charge of the common lands; they control the laying out and improvement of the roads; they fix boundaries and settle controversies relating to them; they have general control over public institutions and public means of communication; and in some instances they exercise a censorship over morals.

The town was formerly the fundamental political organization, and had a large part in the State government; and in some States at present each town, however small, sends at least one representative to the State legislature. Where every town selects one or two representatives from its inhabitants, we have an extreme case of small district representation, with the inevitable result of a numerous legislature composed principally of ordinary men from the small towns. As long as New England continued to be occupied almost exclusively by the descendants of the origi

nal inhabitants, it was able to maintain the reputation of its ancient democracy. But the decay of many of the towns and the coming of immigrants without political experience or knowledge of New England traditions has brought into influence a population not fitted to the institutions.

Topics. The New England town.-The town meeting.Officers of the town.-Reason for appointing selectmen in a democratic town.-Restrictions on their power. Their functions.— Representation of towns in the State legislatures.—Disadvantages of the old system.

References.-Bryce, American Commonwealth, i, 561, 565, 567, 572, 576, 580, 583, 592, 631; ii, 246; Hart, Actual Government, 170-178; Fiske, Civil Government, Chap. II; Ford, American Citizen's Manual, Part I, 53-61; Bryce, American Commonwealth, i, 567; Fiske, Civil Government, 20-38, 79; Hart, Actual Government, 171, 172.

171. Phases of the History of the Town.-The town as it appears in the United States has as its historical antecedent the clan, the mark, or the old English town organization. In the old English town there was a tungemot, or town meeting, which exercised in the management of local affairs essentially the same powers as the later town meeting of New England. The town had also in England, through representatives in the assemblies of the hundreds and the shires, part in the transaction of business in which several towns were interested. This practice furnished an early instance of political representation, which has become the most vital principle in the Government of the United States. The town was a political unit, and the purposes of its organization were the common interests of the members of the community. The coöperation of the inhabitants in the transaction of secular business created a bond of community feeling which tended to hold them together in managing

their religious affairs. Thus, in the course of time, as these affairs became organized, the parish became coextensive with the town; and in certain instances the designations of town and parish were applied indifferently, each covering both the secular and the ecclesiastical organizations and interests. In these instances the vestry was only another form of town meeting. A later step in the history of the town was a more or less complete separation of the ecclesiastical from the civil affairs, and the application of the term parish to the community as a religious body.

The towns in New England held a position of greater political importance than did those in England. Because the hundred did not appear in New England, and because of the imperfect development of the county, the towns became the basis of the constitutional structure that was erected in the States. In the first place, they constituted the fundamental districts for the assessment and collection of taxes. In the second place, each was required to maintain a body of men with military training; and thus the towns were the units of the militia organization. In the third place, the towns were the districts recognized in the representative system of the colonies and the States.

Topics.-Antecedents of the town.-Its relation to the parish. -Reason of the town's prominence in New England.

References.-Bryce, American Commonwealth, i, 562; Hart, Actual Government, 170; Fiske, Civil Government, 34-47.

172. Transitory Local Institutions of the Dutch in New York. The feudal organization transplanted by the Dutch to New York and established on the banks of the Hudson River was necessarily transitory. Under the authority of the Dutch, exercised through the Dutch West India Company, it was provided that any person who should plant a colony of fifty persons over fifteen years of age would be permitted to hold a tract of land extending four miles along

one side of a navigable river, or two miles on each side, "and so far into the country as the situation of the occupiers will permit." The holder of such a tract was called the "Patroon," and the persons who settled on his lands occupied the position of feudal dependents. They had no rights of self-government, but were required to serve the patroon for the period specified in their agreement with him. The grant by which the land was conveyed to the patroon made it his peculiar property subject to perpetual inheritance by his heirs.1

When it became manifest that feudalism of the European type would not flourish in the New World, a new charter was granted to the company, and by this charter a class of small proprietors was created. It provided that anyone who should take with him five persons over fifteen years of age, and settle on territory under the jurisdiction of the Dutch, might receive two hundred acres of land as his private property and certain privileges with respect to the public lands. Under this charter villages came into existence and a form of local self-government was established; but after New Netherlands fell under the authority of the English, the local government was so modified as to make it more like that of New England.

Topics. Settlement under Dutch West India Company.The patroon.-Later provision for small holdings.-Rise of villages. References.-Fiske, Civil Government, 79, 110, 111, 150; McLaughlin, History of the American Nation, 97-104.

173. The Parish of Virginia.-The town of New England and the parish of Virginia are reproductions of the same institution from different stages of its history. The New Englanders laid stress on its secular character; the Virginians, on its ecclesiastical character. The New Englanders

1 See § 6.

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